Norwich City’s Steven Whittaker reveals how first meeting with Alex Neil set the tone for promotion campaign
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Steven Whittaker admitted the Norwich City squad was 'taken aback' by Alex Neil's no-nonsense approach upon his arrival at Carrow Road.
Neil's appointment was the turning point in a campaign that would eventually lead to a glorious day at Wembley and subsequent promotion back to the Premier League.
But when Neil was appointed as Neil Adams' successor, Whittaker admitted the players didn't know what to expect from a manager many had barely heard of.
However, Neil set the tone for the rest of the season in his first meeting with the players, who were told in no uncertain terms who would be calling the shots.
'It's important that any manager gets respect from his players straight away and that first time he came in and spoke to the boys in the changing rooms, everyone was almost like taken aback,' said Whittaker.
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'We pretty much knew our place, and that was important. We knew he was going to be honest. It was like 'we need to get on side here or we won't be playing'.
'The proof is always in the pudding, though, and there is a need to follow through. And he's done that.'
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Neil took his squad on a journey that would lead to the Arch at Wembley and victory over Middlesbrough.
Whittaker admitted he had never prepared for a match with so much at stake with the loser facing up to another season of toil in the Championship.
'We were all chatting beforehand about how the final would set up our summer,' the 31-year-old told The Scotsman. 'It was either going to set up next season perfectly or leave us miserable and grumpy for a while, and leave us having to refocus on the same challenge we had before.
'I was trying to compare it (to other finals like the UEFA Cup) and when you get to that level, the games themselves are all of a pretty similar stature. The difference was what was at stake. You were playing for your future, in many senses.
'A lot of us had played in big games before but never in one where it defined your next season.'